How to Write a Better Resume and Get More Interviews #3

Back with number 3 in my series of 10 posts about frequent questions I get about resumes. Be sure to check out the other posts in this series:

Resume FAQ #1
Resume FAQ #2

Now on to your burning questions! Remember, if you have a resume question that isn't listed here, leave a comment below or email me at theoilyintrovert@gmail.com and I will try and include it in a future post!

Is it appropriate to use color in a resume?

In general, its best to keep color to a minimum, especially in a non-artistic field. 
That said, there are definitely a few places you can use a **little** bit of color in your resume.
You can use a nice, subtle color for the headings of your main sections (Experience, Education, etc) as well as your name at the top of your resume. Don't use more than one or 2 colors max, and don't use loud colors like bright green or pink. A nice navy or burgundy title section, however, can break up an otherwise monotonous-looking page, and add a little emphasis to the section breaks. Keep the main body of your resume black, though.

How can I solve the work experience "chicken and egg" problem on my resume when I don't have any internships?

Its a myth that you absolutely need internships in order to get a job in your chosen field after school. Look for entry level positions at smaller companies to get your initial experience in, and then set your sights on bigger companies. A company is not interested in what you've done in the past. I know this sounds crazy, but bear with me.

A company needs to know how *they* will benefit if they hire you. So many resumes are simply a laundry list of tasks they have done, with no real results or achievements that would interest a company. Its important to show what you can do for them in a compelling way, and the easiest way to do that is to use their own job description to show you have what they want, even if you have no internships or direct experience yet. You need to show them how the skills you've gained in school transfer to the job you are applying for, and what results you have gotten.

By results, I mean concrete things that happened as a result of you having a certain skill. For example, if the job description says a candidate needs Powerpoint skills, you can say something like, "created 30 slide PowerPoint presentation for class final that received a 98% grade" or something similar. If there are any relevant results you've achieved from previous part time jobs, this is a great tactic to use as well.

What skills are relevant to include in resumes?

The answer depends on the job you are applying for. You should be customizing your resume for each job you apply to, using a company's own keywords from their job description.

A company needs to know how *they* will benefit if they hire you. So many resumes are simply a laundry list of tasks they have done, with no real results or achievements that would interest a company. Its important to show what you can do for them in a compelling way, and the easiest way to do that is to use their own job description to show you have what they want.
You want to make sure you are pulling key words directly from the job description when listing your skills and experience, as it will help get you through the automated software filters most companies use now.

Use action words, like "created", "spearheaded", and "managed" to show off various skills. Avoid cliche words like "synergy" and "leverage" so you stand out from the crowd. 

What takes the place of limited education on a resume?

Skills and experience will always take the place of limited education. Professional certifications are also a big help.

It may take you a little longer to get where you want to go, but it will happen. You need to show an employer that you have the skills and knowledge to be a success in the position. Show that skills from your previous unrelated positions transfer over to the job you are applying for. You should already be customizing your resume for each job you apply for, so you will just need to think about what from your previous experience shows that you can do the job you are applying to.

You can also address your lack of education in your cover letter. This is the perfect place to address a lack of education, and instead mention any professional group meetings you attend, self-paced courses you've been through, or related projects you've done to show that you are committed to increasing your knowledge and expertise. Show them how you would be a valuable employee.

I am a recent college graduate. Would it look better on my resume to have a paid internship in a field I am interested in or a job in a different one?

It will always be better for an employer to see that you have relevant experience in your field. Think about it from their perspective: if you are hiring a programmer, would you rather hire someone who had a programming internship, has experience with programming as well as been immersed in a programming environment, or someone who found a job as a salesperson and made cold calls? 

It is always more advisable to get an internship over an unrelated job. The additional benefit of an internship is that you are exposed to people in your field, and you will be able to network with colleagues - this can often times lead to a job. There is a good chance the company you are interning with will end up hiring you as well if you do a good job. 

Bottom line - employers are more interested in relevant experience than a random job.